Nonlinear response of summer temperature to holocene insolation forcing in Alaska

Benjamin F. Clegg, Ryan Kelly, Gina H. Clarke, Ian R. Walker, Feng Sheng Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regional climate responses to large-scale forcings, such as precessional changes in solar irradiation and increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gases, may be nonlinear as a result of complex interactions among earth system components. Such nonlinear behaviors constitute a major source of climate "surprises" with important socioeconomic and ecological implications. Paleorecords are key for elucidating patterns and mechanisms of nonlinear responses to radiative forcing, but their utility has been greatly limited by the paucity of quantitative temperature reconstructions. Here we present Holocene July temperature reconstructions on the basis of midge analysis of sediment cores from three Alaskan lakes. Results show that summer temperatures during 10,000-5,500 calibrated years (cal) B.P. were generally lower than modern and that peak summer temperatures around 5,000 were followed by a decreasing trend toward the present. These patterns stand in stark contrast with the trend of precessional insolation, which decreased by ∼10% from 10,000 y ago to the present. Cool summers before 5,500 cal B.P. coincided with extensive summer ice cover in the western Arctic Ocean, persistence of a positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation, predominantly La Niña-like conditions, and variation in the position of the Alaskan treeline. These results illustrate nonlinear responses of summer temperatures to Holocene insolation radiative forcing in the Alaskan sub-Arctic, possibly because of state changes in the Arctic Oscillation and El Niño-Southern Oscillation and associated land-atmosphere-ocean feedbacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19299-19304
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
StatePublished - Nov 29 2011


  • Chironomidae
  • Climate change
  • High latitudes
  • Land-ocean-atmosphere interaction
  • Paleotemperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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